Rock News: Music's high and low notes

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International  |  Jan. 21, 2003 at 3:00 AM
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Jam band stalwart Soulive has just finished work on a new album for Blue Note Records, scheduled for release April 8. On the new album the group plays exclusively as a trio -- no guest artists -- for the first time in years, stripping down the instrumentation and stepping up the energy level. The self-titled album marks an infectious return to roots for the trio, which consists of Alan Evans (drums), Neal Evans (organ, keyboards) and Eric Krasno (guitar).

Incorporating elements of soul, funk and hip-hop on a range of new material, the group continues to push boundaries, never losing its trademark chicken-shack grittiness. The originals on "Soulive" range from the loping funk of album opener "Alladin" to the driving grooves of "First Street" and the explosive "Elron." On "Shaheed," the group's hip-hop instincts get a workout over clipped organ phrases, while the up-tempo "Solid" mixes bluesy harmony over a stacatto -- almost electronic -- rhythm section. The lone cover, "Lenny," is a soulful take on the Stevie Ray Vaughan classic, and the album is rounded out with "Turn It Out," the title track from their independent 2000 release.


The Oakland East Bay Symphony led by music director and conductor Michael Morgan, will present the world premiere of Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa's first, full-length symphony, entitled "From Our Mother." The work, co-commissioned by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Oakland East Bay Symphony, will be performed Friday at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Calif.

Sosa will present a free, pre-performance talk beginning at 7:05 p.m. Morgan long has admired Sosa's unique fusion of world music, jazz and folkloric instrumentation.

"Sosa's music is deeply spiritual, rhythmically textured and joyful," he said. "He is a musical adventurer, and I'm thrilled OEBS will be joining him on this leg of the journey."

"From Our Mother" is an Afro-Symphonic work based on traditional folk melodies and rhythms from Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and West Africa. The concept of the three-movement work is to interpret these traditional folk materials with modern jazz harmonies using a classical symphony orchestra and combined folkloric ensemble. Sosa's premise is the varied musical elements of the cultures of the African Diaspora are united by common roots. "From Our Mother" is a reflection of Sosa's search for this underlying unity of musical expression.


Sundance Channel will celebrate St. Patrick's Day with the U.S. television premiere of "If I Should Fall From Grace: The Shane MacGowan Story." This riveting theatrical feature, directed by Sarah Share, is one of five films that Sundance Channel will air as part of the cable network's new weekly documentary series DOCday, that launches Monday, March 3, and continues every Monday from noon until midnight with a weekly feature premiere at 9:00 p.m.

Taking its title from the Pogues classic album, "If I Should Fall From Grace with God," the film celebrates MacGowan's astonishing talent without shying away from the more painful aspects of his famously chaotic life. This unflinching, music-driven documentary provides the first real insight into the background and career of the legendary Irish artist who, as lead singer and songwriter for the Pogues, became a worldwide punk icon.

"If I Should Fall From Grace" is a portrait of one of the most outrageous figures in the music world. It demonstrates why, despite years of serious drug and alcohol abuse, MacGowan still is widely regarded as one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation. The 90-minute film features rare early footage, video clips and live performances interspersed with contemporary interviews that trace MacGowan's path from his first forays into London's punk scene with his band The Nips through five legendary albums with the Pogues. We are privy to his controversial departure from the group with which his name is synonymous and with which he now is re-united. The piece includes extensive interviews with MacGowan, his former bandmates, longtime girlfriend Victoria Clarke, his parents and fellow musicians Nick Cave and Elvis Costello.


Blackmore's Night has a double live CD, "Past Times With Good Company," set for North American release on SPV Records Feb 25. Legendary hard rock guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and vocalist/lyricist Candice Night created Blackmore's Night in 1997 to blend rock, pop and folk in a Renaissance-inspired pastoral style. Blackmore plays acoustic and electric guitars, but the arrangements are written for traditional and archaic acoustic instruments such as hurdy-gurdy, shawm, cornamuse, rauschpfiefe, mandolin, mandola, pennywhistle, tambourine and Renaissance drums.

The album was recorded in May 2002 in Groningen, The Netherlands. It includes songs from the three Blackmore's Night studio albums -- "Shadow of the Moon," "Under a Violet Moon" and "Fires at Midnight" -- as well as two songs that Blackmore originally recorded with Deep Purple ("Solder of Fortune") and Rainbow ("16th Century Greensleeves").


Boston-based Tone-Cool Records will release a 24-track compilation, "The Story of Tone-Cool, Vol. 1," Feb. 25. Ranging from the label's first act, the 11th Hour Band, through the late-2002 release of Susan Tedeschi's "Wait For Me," the two-CD set marks the label's 50th release.

"The Story of Tone-Cool, Vol. 1" includes two tracks from Tedeschi, including the 1999 breakout hit "It Hurt So Bad" that helped earn her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, as well as two songs from the North Mississippi Allstars. The Allstars' tracks on the set are "Shake 'Em On Down," from their 2001 Grammy-nominated "Shake Hands With Shorty," and "Sugartown" from their 2003 Grammy-nominated "51 Phantom."

Other award-nominated artists on the compilation include harmonica-Blues legends Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, winners of the W.C. Handy Award for Blues Band of the Year in 1999, 2000 and 2002; Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, 2000 Handy winners for Best Acoustic Blues Album; and, multiple Handy award nominees Bernard Allison, Double Trouble, David Maxwell and Toni Lynn Washington. The collection also features tracks from current Tone-Cool releases by Rick Holmstrom, Hobex, and Todd Thibaud.

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